(Albany Herald): U.S. House approves making Ocmulgee Monument Georgia's first national historical park
WASHINGTON -- Establishment of Georgia's first national historical park has made it halfway through Congress.
On Monday, the U.S. House, in a 396-8 vote, approved the Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park Boundary Revision Act, which would expand Ocmulgee National Monument near Macon and make it Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park.
The legislation passed the House last year but did not get consideration in the U.S. Senate before the 114th Congress adjourned. Companion legislation in the Senate is now in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee awaiting consideration.
"The Ocmulgee Mounds are truly a cultural and archaeological treasure," U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop, D-Albany, said. "The site of these historic mounds has been inhabited continuously for over 17,000 years, and the ceremonial mounds and earth-lodges that exist today were built over 1,000 years ago.
"House passage of this legislation is a win for historic preservation and a win for Middle Georgia. I thank all those that have helped push this bill across the finish line here in the House, and I encourage my colleagues in the Senate to follow suit by enacting this legislation into law as swiftly as possible."
U.S. Rep. Austin Scott, R-Tifton said that the "vote marks an important milestone in many years of effort to bring about increased recognition and enhanced cultural preservation of the Ocmulgee National Monument."
"Our legislation is a welcomed example of what can be achieved when a local community, state leaders and members of Congress, from both sides of the aisle, collaborate towards a worthy goal," Scott said. "It was an honor to work with Congressman Bishop on legislation that will provide significant economic, educational and cultural benefits to Middle Georgia."
U.S. Sens. Johnny Isakson, R-Marietta, and David Perdue, R-Sea Island, introduced the companion legislation in their chamber. Isakson tweeted late Monday that he hoped for "Senate passage soon."
The act, if approved and signed into law by President Trump, would nearly quadruple the size of the current monument, expanding it from 702 acres to 2,800 acres. It also would authorize a resources study of recreational activities including hunting, fishing and camping.
The delegation said the expansion and improvement would be a tribute to the Native Americans who came to this site during the Paleo-Indian period., generate tourist revenue for Macon and the surrounding areas, and educate visitors about the different cultures that have occupied the land. The mounds and earth-lodges that the Mississippians built to serve as formal council chambers when they arrived in Macon around the year 900 are intact.
The Ocmulgee National Monument was authorized by Congress in 1934 to protect part of the lands known as the "Old Ocmulgee Fields" and envisioned a large park of approximately 2,000 acres. Local citizens, however, could only finance the acquisition of 678 acres by the time it opened in 1936.
The Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park Boundary Revision Act is supported from the Inter-Tribal Council of the Five Civilized Tribes (Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muscogee [Creek], and Seminole Nations), which represent more than a half-million Native Americans throughout the United States.